By Kehaulani Cerizo
As omicron continues to surge throughout the state, a new mutation of the variant, called BA.2, has been recently detected on the U.S. Mainland and now in Hawaiʻi, officials confirmed Friday, Jan. 28.
Eight cases of the omicron mutation have shown up in Hawaiʻi, and they are believed to be on O’ahu — although location confirmation will be a couple of weeks out, according to state Department of Health Laboratories Division Administrator Dr. Edward Desmond. The results discussed Friday reflect samples from two weeks ago.
While the omicron subvariant BA.2 has not yet been deemed a variant of concern by the World Health Organization, it may prolong the omicron surge the state is experiencing.
Variants of concern mean greater severity of illness and more resistance to vaccinations and other preventative measures.
However, much is still unknown about the mutation, which has become the dominant strain of omicron in Denmark and the UK. In Denmark, though, the severity of illnesses and hospitalizations have not yet increased.
“Because it’s so new, there’s a lot of things we don’t know about it,” Desmond said during a news conference Friday afternoon. “We are not sure if it causes more serious disease; there seems to be no indication in Denmark that it causes more serious diseases.”
“As BA.2 took over in Denmark, there has not been an increase in hospitalizations,” he added. “So that has been somewhat of a relief.”
Health experts were hopeful, though, that the current surge of omicron BA.1 would soon taper. In other countries, the subvariant BA.2 has shown early indications of a prolonged surge.
“It is possible that the introduction of BA.2 may slow down or delay the end of this surge,” Desmond said. “And so we have to be concerned about hospitalizations and the wear and tear on our stalwart medical community.”
He emphasized precautions such as wearing a mask, getting vaccinated and avoiding crowds.